What now for Mille Lacs County?
by Clare Fitz, Mille Lacs County Tea Party
The lawsuit is over! On November 1, 2004, the United States Supreme Court denied the petition filed by Mille Lacs County and the 1st National Bank of Milaca, asking that the case be reviewed. As a result, the primary question remains unanswered as to whether or not the 61,000 acre area that comprises Isle Harbor, South Harbor and Kathio townships as well as the cities of Isle, Wahkon and most of Onamia, is an Indian reservation or not. Out of about 275 petitions filed with the Supreme Court only one was chosen for review, so while we had hoped that we would be the one, it was not to be.
It is important to note, that in the end, the State of Minnesota, the State of South Dakota, the state of North Dakota, the City of Wahkon, the township of South Harbor and the Lake Mille Lacs Association all joined as friends of the court in support of the County and Bank’s position. The tribal government and our federal government, however, continue to claim that the former reservation still exists. Quite revealing, however, is the fact that our federal government did not join the lawsuit on the side of the Band. Even more revealing is the extent to which the Band went to keep the case from being heard on its merits. Could it be that they knew they would lose if the truth were told?
It is important to note, that although the outcome of the case was not as decisive as we had hoped for, we as a County and the citizens of that County, did make significant gains. During the appeals court hearing, the tribal government’s attorneys agreed with the judge that any harm to the County caused by tribal government actions would be reason to hear the County’s case on its merits. As a result, the tribal government has been complying with all County regulations, which they were refusing to do before the lawsuit was filed.
So while the jurisdictional issue seems to be under control at the moment, the basic issue of equal treatment of all people regardless of race, as guaranteed by the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, remains unsolved.
The purpose of the Mille Lacs County Tea Party, in its present form, is completed. We must continue to be involved, however, until we can achieve true racial equality in our United States. As I have said many times in the past, our adversary is a federal Indian policy and the tribal government that administers it. It is a system that promotes the separation of races with special privileges based on race. While we are called “racist” for our involvement in the issue, we continue to contend that this is a legal issue, not a racial issue. For the benefit of generations to come, we will continue to promote the concept of “One Nation...Indivisible”. We will work toward re-establishment of that principle. We will not quit until the full intent of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is realized.